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Court: Adopted child to stay with non-biological family

Pennsylvania residents may have heard about the latest twist in a landmark child custody saga that has received considerable national coverage. At the center is a 4-year-old Cherokee girl dubbed “Baby Veronica,” whom the Oklahoma Supreme Court recently declared would be transferred back into the care of her adoptive parents in South Carolina. In the Sept. 23 ruling, the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the child and dissolved a temporary order that placed the girl with her father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and his family.

The decision comes after a lengthy multijurisdictional tug-of-war between the Cherokee man and his wife, who is not the girl’s biological mother, and the family who has been endeavoring to adopt her since her birth.

Until she was 27 months old, Veronica lived with the South Carolina family; at that point, she was transferred to her father’s care in Oklahoma after a ruling under the Indian Child Welfare Act. Two separate court rulings, one from the U.S. Supreme Court, followed in the adoptive family’s favor, and the girl’s father turned to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Whether or not the man will be able to visit his daughter and other such conditions were not disclosed, but matters may be complicated by a custodial interference charge levied against him by South Carolina courts. A spokesperson for the family confirmed that the girl had been transferred to her adoptive parents’ care shortly after the Oklahoma court’s decision.

While this landmark case involved multiple jurisdictions and gray areas where conflicting laws overlapped, at its core was the same conflict that defines many custody battles and conflicts over adoptions: determining the best interests of the child. In cases like this, making such a determination can be challenging when both parties are fit parents, and the need for strong legal representation is particularly high. A family law attorney may be able to advocate for one party’s fitness for custody, whether at a post-divorce custody hearing or before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Source: CS Monitor, “Baby Veronica case: Cherokee child in adoption dispute returns to adoptive parents“, Kristi Eaton, September 24, 2013